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Nibbles and Bits

photo by steven lilley, via flickr creative commons

photo by steven lilley, via flickr creative commons

The average American wastes 1,400 calories worth of food every day.  This translates into the staggering number popularized by Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: How American Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It).  According to his calculations, 40 percent of the total food we serve every day is wasted.

I grew up in the Midwest, and as a kid, the clean plate club was prized and food waste was shunned.  In fact, my mom got around the food waste issue by making “just enough” for family holidays – thereby needing to institute the FHB (family hold back) rule to make sure guests got enough to eat.  As a result of this foundation – and my inability to reconcile the fact that there is such abundance in my neighborhood while breakfast-less families wake up less than a mile away – I really, really don’t like wasting food.

But I also really, really don’t like finishing half-eaten pieces of quiche or a bowl of bacon-y brussels sprouts “just because” either.  This finishing-half-eaten-weirdness thing started when my kids began eating real food and I suddenly found myself scraping their bowls of avocado clean and eating the last pancake because it seemed easier than putting it into the fridge.  I’d end up feeling sort of full and relatively dissatisfied and disinterested in cooking anything interesting for Sean and me (we now eat mostly family meals, but some nights we still eat separately).

Knowing that wasting tons of food makes me feel guilty and eating random scraps makes me cranky, I’m trying to strike a balance: minimizing waste, but at the end of the day, opting for a little bit of waste over a scrap-based fourth meal.  This is a conscious trade-off, and every time I reach for the last few apple slices I’m really not hungry to eat, I remind myself that food should be fuel and pleasure…not obligation.  As I feed my family, I try not to forget, I’m feeding myself too.

How do you make sure you’re eating foods that make you feel like you, and honoring your meals?  How do you maximize nourishment and minimize waste?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Lately, I’ve made a conscious effort to NOT finish my kiddo’s food just because he leaves it untouched. I was doing it a LOT and, like you, feeling no satisfaction from it. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that having a child means food WILL be wasted — but I’ll do my best to minimize the waste. If I can. Thanks for this essay — it’s something close to home since my husband really does not like to waste food (his grandmother survived WWII and in his family, they don’t waste).

    May 1, 2013

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